Time for a Chuckle or Two?

It's Spring, which always finds me reminiscing about college days. It's probably the Frisbees, which have a certain elegance in flight. I used to watch the liberal arts students frolicking on the lawn while I was plowing through my homework.

I wonder if the old joke about the difference between liberal arts and science/engineering is making the rounds in the halls of engineering schools around the world:

Q: What's the difference between exams given in liberal arts and engineering tests?

A: In engineering tests, the questions change but the answers remain the same. In liberal arts, the questions are the same every semester but the answers change.

Or this one about the rivalry between two engineering disciplines:

Q: Why is mechanical engineering a healthier choice than electrical engineering?

A: Because you can always drop a hot pipe.

(My brother is still a practicing ME. I'm a lapsed EE, although my wife insists I still “think like an engineer.” I'm not exactly sure what this means — it doesn't always sound like a compliment.)

And since this is a Planet Analog blog, I would be held accountable if I did not try out at least one joke at the expense of software engineers:

If hardware engineers designed circuits like software engineers write code, civilization would collapse at the first lightning strike. (I don't remember the exact wording of that joke, by the way.)

Which brings us to:

Q: Why are “blonde” jokes short?

A: So engineers can remember them.

We can't leave marketing out of this.

Q: How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. They just casually mention to marketing that the dead bulb is a feature.

There used to be a joke that started: “If automobiles had operating systems…”

Haven't heard that one is quite a while, though.

More than a few of our favorite jokes are failing the reality test. Some answers in engineering exams do change as technology advances. Even in science — more “absolute” in some people's eyes — answers change (although not generally on a semester by semester basis). That's why, when we're careful, we talk in terms of scientific theories and experimental data and leave “facts” to the lawyers.

Mathematics? Pi keeps changing, although not by much. (As of 2011, the accurate decimal representation of π reached more than 1013 digits.)

The nature of jokes keeps changing as well. Today, we have a surfeit of inside jokes that you can justifiably find funny only if you know something most people don't know. This is a secondary effect of the Rise of the Nerd, I think.

One thing about jokes that does not seem to change very much is that they always have the motive of belittling or humiliating another person or group.

So when engineers tell jokes about other disciplines inside or outside of engineering, they're trying to assert a presumed superiority that seems to have been usurped. This may be because the contributions engineers make to society are so greatly underappreciated. Or, it could be that the target of the joke is being pompous and needs to be taken down a notch.

Telling a joke about yourself can be a way of gaining the trust and respect of others because on one hand, you're showing some vulnerability, and on the other, you're showing self-confidence.

So let's keep telling and creating jokes. Consider the alternative: Being humorless.

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30 comments on “Time for a Chuckle or Two?

  1. David Ashton
    May 8, 2013

    Posted this before somewhere but it is very pertinent here.

    The chancellor of a university is complaining to the Dean of Engineering.  “Why do you need so much money for all this test equipment?   We haven't got the budget for it.   Why can't you be like the Maths faculty – they only need a waste paper basket?”

    He thinks for a second.  “Or better still, like the philosophy department.  They don;t even need a waste paper basket….”

    Sorry – this may need a bit of translation for American readers 🙂

  2. Brad Albing
    May 8, 2013

    Standard response to jokes like these:

    Well, I guess you had to be there.

    Or possibly: Well in German, it was really funny.

  3. David Ashton
    May 8, 2013

    Is ANYTHING really funny in German?

  4. Brad Albing
    May 8, 2013

    Jack – the crux of some of these as you've touched upon is the “inside” aspect – which, for engineering jokes, probably means they are a bit more intellectual than most (the nerd effect). And we do enjoy belittling the other engineering disciplines, especially if they are mechanical engineers. I can't tell you how many times I and my fellow electronic design engineers had to redesign something those pipe-bending gorillas had designed.

  5. Brad Albing
    May 8, 2013

    Hmm… maybe not. Oh, wait, yes! If you're making fun of the French.

  6. Guru of Grounding
    May 8, 2013

    Optimist: “the glass is half full”

    Pessimist: “the glass is half empty”

    Engineer: “looks like you have about twice as much glass as you need”

  7. Guru of Grounding
    May 8, 2013

    A lawyer, a doctor, and an engineer are golfing. They have to pause and wait for a group of blind golfers to pass. The doctor says “How sad. Perhaps vision could be restored for some of them.”  The lawyer says “I wonder if any of them needs legal advice”  The engineer says “Why can't these guys play at night?”

  8. Netcrawl
    May 9, 2013

    And how about for the americans?is there anything funny about the americans?

  9. Jack Shandle
    May 9, 2013

    Let me see if I understand this joke by offering another line to it: Had the chancellor only known that if he were to appoint an existentialist as dean of the school of philosophy and follow his advice explicitly all of his wastebasket and test equipment issues would quickly disappear.

  10. Jack Shandle
    May 9, 2013

    After reading all the posts I can see my nerd credentials are being challenged (in a nice way). I will try to redeem my reputation with this joke (it lacks a punch line but I have one in mind).

    A ship carrying a contingent of engineers headed for Antarctica for six months of experimental studies foundered near an uninhabited island in the Pacific. Only the engineers made it to shore. Turns out, the island was rich in natural resources. The incident is forgotten until 20 years later the island is rediscovered. It has been transformed into a shining new city complete with everything a modern person might want except just one thing.

    What is missing?


  11. Brad Albing
    May 9, 2013

    Nope. we are a humorless bunch who often have our heads up our butts. Best to just ignore us.

  12. Brad Albing
    May 9, 2013

    G_of_G – That is a good one – mostly because, after the chuckle, it actually makes perfect sense.

  13. Brad Albing
    May 9, 2013

    OK – I give up – what?

  14. Jack Shandle
    May 9, 2013

    My punch line is: A marketing plan because if the stranded engineers had a marketing plan it would not have taken 20 years to be rescued. But then again, maybe they didn't want to be rescued.

  15. Brad Albing
    May 10, 2013

    Well, OK.

    Anyway, you should pro'ly not try any of this material during your stand-up act. Just sayin'….

  16. Brad Albing
    May 10, 2013

    So, maybe instead of these dry engineering jokes, we should pick on musicians. They're always easy targets. Or just musical jokes in general:

    A C, an Eb , and a G walk into a bar. And the bartender says…?

  17. Jack Shandle
    May 10, 2013

    Soory guys but we don't serve minors?

  18. Brad Albing
    May 10, 2013

    Exactly. From now on, we'll do stand-up together.

    How do you get the drummer off of your doorstep?

  19. Michael Dunn
    May 10, 2013

    For a moment, thought the “A” was part of the chord. What'd that be? Amin7dim5 or something? Good chord.

    Aaack, gotta learn figured bass.

  20. Brad Albing
    May 10, 2013

    Sorry – was ambiguous. Works better when spoken.

  21. Michael Dunn
    May 10, 2013

    What's the sound of two violas being rubbed together on a cold winter night?


  22. Jack Shandle
    May 11, 2013

    Re.: How do you get the drummer off of your doorstep?

    Three answers in order of ascending abstruseness.

    1. Tell him the band will start its practice session in 2 minutes

    2. Propose marriage

    3. If he's short, just tell him Mary had her baby in the stable across the street – where the three camels are parked.


  23. didymus7
    May 12, 2013

    I heard this one from a keyboardist:

    How does a female lead singer change a lightbulb?

    She holds it in the air and the world revolves around her.

  24. Davidled
    May 12, 2013

    What would an electric guitarist and a vacuum cleaner of chemistry lab have in common?

    When they are plugged in outlet, they both suck air and electric power with noise.

  25. Brad Albing
    May 13, 2013

    OK. Those are good. The original answer was: Pay him for the pizza.

    Following that one, we then ask: How do you know if there's a sax player at your front door?

  26. Jack Shandle
    May 14, 2013

    Don't know any jokes about sax players. I give up.

  27. jimfordbroadcom
    May 14, 2013

    How many bass players does it take to change a lightbulb?






    None; the keyboard player does it with his left hand!  Don't think I have it in for bass players since I'm one (as well as keyboards and guitar).  And EE of course!

  28. Brad Albing
    May 14, 2013

    >>How do you know if there's a sax player at your front door?

    He doesn't know what key to use and he comes in late.

  29. antedeluvian2
    May 14, 2013

    Q: What is the difference between a drummer and a chiropodist?


    A: The chiropodist bucks up the feet…

  30. Brad Albing
    May 14, 2013

    OK, I'm going to steal that.

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